Russian legislators past sweeping legislation on Tuesday introducing prison terms of up to 15 years for acts of war, including surrender, as country’s forces face major battlefield setbacks nearly seven months after invading Ukraine.
Voluntary surrender and looting are punishable by 10 and 15 years in prison respectively, with “mobilization, martial law and time of war” as aggravating circumstances.
Desertion during mobilization or wartime will be punished for up to 10 years, according to the bill drafted by members of all parties represented in parliament.
Conscientious objectors are punished by up to three years in prison in times of war.
The bill introduces the concepts of “mobilization, martial law and time of war” which were not previously mentioned in the Russian Criminal Code, according to human rights lawyer Pavel Chikov, who was the first reported on the Duma bill.
Observers speculate that his passage paves the way for a general mobilization amid Russia’s struggles to replenish its dwindling troops in Ukraine.
Soldiers who refuse to serve can be imprisoned even without martial law, military lawyer Maxim Grebenyuk told the independent news site Vyorstka, pointing to language in the legislation that punishes soldiers during an “armed conflict”.
The State Duma, the lower house of Russia’s parliament, voted unanimously in favor of the bill, Chikov said.
Russia’s upper house of parliament, the Federation Council, is expected to pass the bill on Wednesday, according to state media.
Wartime prison sentences will then come into effect the day President Vladimir Putin signs the bill.